Former police boss cleared of breaking Official Secrets Act

Steve Watts.

Steve Watts.

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy News Editor

HE has spent four
years trying to clear his
name and save his distinguished
reputation.
Hampshire’s former assistant
chief constable Steve Watts
gave 32 years service to the
police. He was so dedicated that
he never took a day off sick.
But just days off his retirement
he found himself on the
other side of the table when he
was investigated by Met Police
chiefs over claims he had
broken the Official Secrets Act.
They are claims which the
father-of-four always denied
and which he says have “devastated”
him and his family.
Today – 50 months after the
allegations were made – the 54-
year-old will finally be publically
exonerated when details
of a full apology from London’s
police chief are revealed at the
last ever meeting of Hampshire
Police Authority.
Mr Watts, who retired in
September 2008, will be at the
meeting in Winchester when
Councillor Adrian Collet will
speak of the apology, which
states there was never any evidence
to substantiate the
claims against Mr Watts.
The details of the full apology
made on behalf of Met Commissioner
Bernard Hogan-Howe
in a letter to Mr Watts have
been shared with senior management
at Hampshire police.
At the time of the allegation
Mr Watts and a colleague, who
was not identified, were questioned
under caution after attending
a south London police
station voluntarily over allegations
relating to an inquiry by
the anti-terrorism branch.
The then chairman of Hampshire
Police Authority Cllr
Jacqui Rayment was reprimanded
as a result for leaking
information and ordered to
carry out more media training.
Two months later the Crown
Prosecution Service said it was
taking no further action due to
“insufficient evidence”.
But it was those words which
Mr Watts says were ambiguous
and left a dark cloud hanging
over his head.
When he complained the matter
was taken up by Essex
police, who looked at the handling
of the inquiry before
making a series of recommendations
that prompted the apology
from the Met to Mr Watts.
Mr Watts, who now works as a
police and crime consultant,
said he was “relieved” and that
the impact on him had been
“quite devastating”.
He said: “I have absolutely no
issue at all that there was ever
an investigation and that I was
involved, it is quite right that it
is properly handled.
“I did, however, have concerns
about the way it was facilitated.
“By the time I retired I would
have hoped to think that whatever
people thought of Steve
Watts there was no issue as to
whether I was a man of integrity,
honesty and truth. You don’t
really realise how important
your reputation is until you
lose it.
“After 32 years of policing
and to have reached the position
I did to suddenly have to
speak to my children about the
claims against me and to have
to tell them it wasn’t true and
actually their dad has always
done the right thing was devastating.
“It’s very important to me to
have proof that there was
absolutely no evidence against
me or my colleague and I am
really glad this has happened. It
is very significant that it has
been said that there was
absolutely no evidence and I
feel completely vindicated.”
Hampshire police said the
matter was a “private one” for
Mr Watts and not something it
would comment on.

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